Mark wasn’t sure how long he knelt there in the sand. His tears eventually gave way to a dull numb and he watched the moon shine a spotlight onto the waves of the Atlantic Ocean gently lapping at the white sandy beach.
He sensed rather than heard gentle footfalls behind him and wondered which of his friends had been sent to retrieve him. Alex probably.
Hazel stepped up beside him, her gypsy skirt billowing gently in the evening breeze, and she handed him a water bottle before sinking to the sand at his side. Neither of them said a word as Mark twisted open the cap and greedily sucked down half the bottle.
“Thank you,” Mark croaked out, his voice hoarse from screaming and crying. “How’d you get roped into coming all the way down here to find me?”
“Your grandfather insisted,” Hazel said, then leaned her shoulder against Mark’s. “He thinks you and I are destined to be married someday. Funny, right?”
“As if,” Mark teased back. “You hate me. I can’t even get your phone number. Did you tell him that?”
“Thought about it,” she said. “I even considered telling him all the ways you offended me. But decided to just honor a dying man’s last wishes.”
“So… does that mean you want to get married?” Mark asked. “Shall we elope tonight? Or wait to get the families together tomorrow?”
“My mother would never forgive me if she didn’t get the privilege of helping pick out a white dress.”
“Darn. Okay, so eloping is out. Tomorrow, then?”
“Sounds like you’ll be attending a coronation tomorrow, Your Highness.” Hazel bumped his shoulder again.
“That came out of left field,” Mark grumbled. “My dad could have warned me or something. I mean, seriously.”
“Your grandfather was pretty insistent that you have some babies. That was kind of a fun conversation.”
Mark chuckled. “Ya like that idea, huh?”
“You’d make beautiful babies,” Hazel said, a flirtatious lilt to her voice.
“If you were their mother, definitely,” Mark agreed.
“Well, you know, I can’t think of a more romantic setting for making babies then the sandy beaches of Puerto Aventuras,” Hazel said. “Let’s skip the wedding and get right to the fun stuff.”
“You think your mom would be upset not to pick out a white dress? My dad would disown me if I got you pregnant out of wedlock, so let’s keep the correct order for those choices.”
“Fine, if you insist.” Hazel pouted like a little girl and then they both cracked up laughing.
Mark sighed and turned to the girl by his side, so young and vulnerable. “Thank you for making me laugh. I needed that.”
“You’re welcome,” she said softly. “For the record, I would have slapped your face again if you’d tried anything.”
“I’ve incurred your wrath once already today,” Mark said. “I won’t go out of my way to offend you again.”
“Good, ‘cause I kinda like you,” she said.
“Yeah, I kinda like you too.” Mark took another long pull from his water bottle then sighed again. “Shall we head back?”
“If we must.” They helped each other to their feet and ended up with arms entangled in a half-hug.
On a whim, Mark leaned down and set his water bottle at his feet and pulled Hazel into his arms for a full hug. “If I can’t marry you tonight, and I can’t make love to you on the beach, at the very least I want a hug.”
“I like hugs,” Hazel whispered, resting her cheek on Mark’s chest.
They held each other that way for several moments, watching the moon shine down and the waves lap along the shoreline, then pulled away and gazed into each other’s eyes. Mark suddenly chuckled.
“I was just thinking that I agree with you. We are going to make beautiful babies.”
“You’re a cad, Prince Marcos.” Hazel pushed him gently and reached down to retrieve his water bottle. “Come on, we’d better get back or they’ll think we really did elope.”
As they left the beach and started back up the road, Mark boldly reached for Hazel’s hand and they walked that way back to the mansion.